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Board schedules public meeting on Husky Refinery investigation

(file / News Tribune)

The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board announced Tuesday a public meeting next month in Superior on the Husky Energy refinery explosion and fire.

The federal agency will host a “public town hall meeting” at 10 a.m. Dec. 12 in the University of Wisconsin Superior’s Yellowjacket Union.

The meeting is open to the public and attendees can make public comments for up to three minutes, the Board said.

The Board, which is investigating the incident, will provide the public with a “factual update” on its inquiry into the refinery’s April 26 explosion and fire, which caused 36 injuries and the evacuation of much of Superior.

“Staff presentations are preliminary and are intended to allow the Board to consider in a public forum the issues and factors involved in this case,” according to a meeting notice released Tuesday.

The hearings were requested in a September letter by five members of Congress — Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Rick Nolan, Sen. Tina Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — who were concerned about the presence of a potentially dangerous chemical compound near the April 26 blast site. They referred to a hydrogen fluoride tank located 150 feet away from the blast as a "great public risk to the Twin Ports metropolitan area." Breathing in hydrogen fluoride at high levels, or in combination with skin contact, can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs.

No hydrogen fluoride was released in the blast or fire.

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